Eco-Essential Pen and Pencil Set

7 05 2014

 

Pen is Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.5mm black refill. Can you believe I still haven't reviewed the basic Hi-Tec-C? Not yet anyway.

Pen contains Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.5mm black refill. Can you believe I still haven’t reviewed the basic Hi-Tec-C? Not yet anyway.

Kickstarter has launched quite the Renaissance of pen bodies, mostly focused around the popular Hi-Tec-C refill (and why not, with all the colors and sizes it comes in). Now, I don’t keep my finger on the pulse of the Kickstarter pen community (because if I did, I’d be broke and buried in a mound of Hi-Tec-C bodies) but I don’t think I’ve seen another pen body on Kickstarter so prominently featuring wood. But then, I don’t pay much attention.

It is okay to drool. My cat does it all the time. But she usually isn't looking at pens.

It is okay to drool. My cat does it all the time. But she usually isn’t looking at pens.

The look is Ikea-chic, hip and minimalist, the aluminum in a tasteful matte finish, the sustainable bamboo luxurious. The Eco-Essential utensils are lightweight, but strong. It looks and feels like a quality product.

Can also be used as emergency Olympic Rings. If you pretend that orange is yellow.

Can also be used as emergency Olympic Rings. If you pretend that orange is yellow.

Customization begins at the cap. Do you want a flat top (with logo), or would you like a capacitive stylus? I prefer the flat top, as I’ve got no end of capacitive styluses in my life, but I appreciate the option. And what color accent would you like? I’m partial to this deep, beautiful blue.

I will admit, sometimes when I'm posting it takes me more than one try to align the threads properly

I will admit, sometimes when I’m posting it takes me more than one try to align the threads properly, especially on the pen

Both the pen and the pencil have twist-on posting/closing caps (one full revolution to open and close, about a quarter revolution to post). The grip unscrews just below the threads to either access the pen refill or pencil insert (which you can pull out to put more lead in, or you can also pull off the knock button on the outside end which honestly seems a lot easier and likely more what they were intending). The pen refill, I will note, is a tight fit when you’re screwing the grip back onto the body, but it will go back to being flush with the grip. Just keep tightening.

What other refills might fit this body? How the heck does the little spring included to adapt the G-2 cartridge to fit even work? These are mysteries for another day

What other refills might fit this body? How the heck does the little spring included to adapt the G-2 cartridge to fit even work? These are mysteries for another day

The pen is almost like air in my hand. Because everything is so lightweight there’s little difference for me between writing with it posted and unposted. Sometimes I think I’d like for the grip to be knurled, for better grippability; other times I’m pleased with the smoothness and wouldn’t have it any other way. The grip lines up perfectly with my hands such that I’m not on the threaded ridge, but your grip may vary. The only thing that would make me happier would be if this were a silky-smooth Jetstream refill, because my love of Jetstream knows no bounds.

For as much as you'd pay for this pencil, I'd expect significantly less critical flaws

For as much as you’d pay for this pencil, I’d expect significantly less critical flaws

Now, as much as I admire the pen, I do have some unfortunate things to point out about the pencil that lead me to suspect it was envisioned as more of a matching afterthought than its own stand-alone product. Post the cap on the pencil. Congratulations, now you can’t advance the lead. That’s pretty crucial for a pencil. Yes, I could just not post the cap, but then why bother even having the threading? Why include an option that renders the pencil practically unusable? The only advantage to not posting the cap is then you’re less likely to accidentally use the stylus as an eraser, since there’s no eraser on the pencil. The pencil is beautiful, but the functionality is lacking. This is the result of asking, how do we turn the Eco-Essential pen into a pencil with the fewest structural changes possible? And I get that. Keeps costs down I’m sure. But the end product suffers for it. Are there self-advancing lead mechanisms that would work in this body? Perhaps design a special knock-cap for the pencil?

 

So pleasing to hold and behold

So pleasing to hold and behold

Go for the pen, especially if you’re a Hi-Tec-C refill fan (like I mentioned, it also takes Pilot G-2 refills but we know how I feel about the G-2). The Eco-Essential is an attractive and professional pen body. I kind of want to crash a fancy business scenario just to bring this pen with me. Anyone got any important board meetings I can drop in on? I have a suit and impressive array of office supplies, which I’m pretty sure is all you need.

The pencil, on the other hand, I would pass on, unless you just really want a matching set. If that’s the case, it will match quite beautifully.

Thank you to ISHUJA for providing this sample set for review!





The Bolt – Copper

9 04 2014
No part of this is not awesome

No part of this is not awesome

I got an email out of the blue from Dan Bishop, pen designer for Karas Kustoms, offering me one of their sweet pens to try—I had a taste for the copper, and with the Retrakt backordered out the wazoo, Dan offered to let me try the new copper edition of the Bolt.

I can't suggest what pen Theodore Roosevelt might use if he were alive today, but I can heavily imply

I can’t suggest what pen Theodore Roosevelt might use if he were alive today, but I can heavily imply that IT WOULD TOTALLY BE THIS ONE

I wish you could pick up this pen, because I bet you solid money if you picked it up you would be unable to resist uttering a variation of your favorite, possibly expletive-laden exclamation of disbelief. Something like, “BY THE GREAT BEARD OF ODIN WHAT A CUPROUS MASS OF RAW PEN THIS IS!” Grab two fistfuls of pennies while playing the most dramatic rock music known to your person—you still won’t be able to fully appreciate the weight of this pen until you hold it for yourself. They say this pen is machined from solid copper, and they are not lying.

It smells like a fistful of pennies

And it smells like a fistful of pennies

In spite of being weighty enough to quality as a weapon of self-defense, the weight is well balanced. The pen sits firmly in my hand. I may need to do some strength training before I’m able to write out a whole novel with so heavy a pen, but the weight is comfortably distributed. The copper will warm up with your hand (and will gain a patina in time, which I’ll update with once I’ve got it) and naturally possesses antimicrobial properties.

I'm pretty sure I could do a 60mph somersault and that pen would still be attached to that pocket

I’m pretty sure I could do a 60mph somersault and that pen would still be attached to that pocket

The pen has a fantastically simple, industrial look. The clip is bolted down as firmly as possible, but the flared end allows for it to slide onto papers and pockets with ease (and hold onto them with strength one level below rigor mortis).

Made this on my phone with the fantastic GifBoom app. Heckuva lot easier than making the .gif myself in Photoshop

Made this on my phone with the fantastic GifBoom app. Heckuva lot easier than making the .gif myself in Photoshop

The Bolt is named for its bolt-action deployment mechanism—it’s wonderfully smooth, and with a little practice can be engaged single-handed (at which point, you will be tempted to play with it endlessly).

Yes OF COURSE my motorcycle has a pen cup DOESN'T EVERY MOTORCYCLE??

Yes OF COURSE my motorcycle has a pen cup DOESN’T EVERY MOTORCYCLE??

I decided to take The Bolt out for a ride—the clip held firm to my jacket pocket and the pen did well, but when I put it somewhere less insulated from the V-twin vibrations, like inside the bag on my back rack, the pen ended up coming a little loose.

Note how you can see the seam where the two pieces come together? That's because it rattled a bit loose.

Note how you can see the seam where the two pieces come together? That’s the pen basically being unscrewed by the motorcycle. The knock also needed to be tightened back in after the ride

So if you’re carrying The Bolt in a bag rather than directly on your person, I’d recommend pairing it with something like a Nock Co. case.

This refill is a winner

This refill is a winner

The refill it came with—a Schmidt easyFLOW 9000—may be my favorite Parker-style ballpoint refill yet. It’s dark, it’s smooth; looking at my hand, it’s not 100% smudge resistant, but it’s approaching Jetstream-like quality.

Are you thinking of Abraham Lincoln? I'm kind of thinking about Abraham Lincoln

Are you thinking of Abraham Lincoln? I’m kind of thinking about Abraham Lincoln

The only complaint I have is that the top plunger can end up a little loose while still being on tight enough that you can properly deploy the pen without realizing that it needs tightening. When you get into this scenario, rattling can happen. If you’ve got rattling, you need to tighten the plunger all the way.

She insisted on being in the picture

She insisted on being in the picture

All in all, this is a heavy and heavy-duty unique pen, solid made-in-the-USA goodness. Thanks again to Dan and Karas Kustoms for providing this pen!

 

The Bolt – Copper Pen at Karas Kustoms

plus!!! a great roundup by The Clicky Post of all the Karas Kustoms pens





Mini Review: Pilot Vanishing Point Matte Black Body

14 03 2014

I feel like I’ve referenced this pen in one way or another enough at this point that it ought to have its own review of sorts. I bought my stealth matte black Pilot Vanishing Point with a medium nib (an excellent decision, as I love the M nib for general use), but I’m not going to re-review the M nib just because it’s a different color (refer to this Vanishing Point review with the black plated nib; they behave the same). This will focus instead on the infuriating mercurial beauty of the matte-black Vanishing Point body.

Neither the cat nor the sunlight wanted to cooperate today for a more dynamic photo of this unusual pen box

Neither the cat nor the sunlight wanted to cooperate today for a more dynamic photo of this unusual pen box

The box it comes in combines a strange attractiveness with maximum space inefficiency—too cool to throw away, and too bulky to easily store. It would be great to display on the mantle…if I had a mantle.

9 out of 10 ninjas recommend it

9 out of 10 ninjas recommend it

The matte black rides that ineffable line between class and badass. That look was why I bought it— I wanted a Vanishing Point to be my motorcycling pen. It looked good. It felt good; wonderful to hold, so smooth to the touch. I kept the pen well protected in various pockets, but discovered after one trip that the finish was so delicate that it had worn away in several places down to the brassy metal of the barrel. It looked horrible. But the good news was that Pilot responded with great customer service—I took the pen in to my local pen shop, he mailed it off, and it returned to me looking brand new.

And then I ruined it again

And then I ruined it again

In spite of being fixed, nothing could change the fact that this matte finish is just too darned delicate. Despite taking extra care this time around, you can already see more wear on the body. It hasn’t gone completely through the finish yet, but it’s not looking good.

Here's what the regular 18k M nib looks like, for your reference

Here’s what the regular 18k M nib looks like, for your reference

Looks cool, but too high maintenance. Unless you’re a delicate person/don’t actually intend to use this pen, think twice before going for the matte black finish.

I got mine from Office Supplies and More, but the matte black Vanishing Point is widely available online (the Goulet Pen Company, JetPens, and Goldspot all carry it, just to name a few).





Zebra Prefill 3 Color Multi Pen

29 01 2014
In honor of the fast-approaching Valentine's Day, this scan has decided it wants its magenta-purple ink to appear pink instead. I give up

In honor of the fast-approaching Valentine’s Day, this scan has decided it wants its magenta-purple ink to appear pink instead. I give up

These names for multi pens get unwieldy. This is technically the Zebra Prefill 3 Color Multi Pen – Light Blue Body Component / 0.3mm Mechanical Pencil Component / 0.4mm Sarasa Gel Ink Components – Black and Purple. There, that’s everything.

In the world of budget-priced, customizable multi pens, there’s no perfection—only some pretty good options. The Prefill (‘preferred’ + ‘refill’) is Zebra’s pretty good option.

Simple and clean. Like that song. This will now be the soundtrack for the Zebra Prefill.

Simple and clean. Like that song. This will now be the soundtrack for the Zebra Prefill.

The body is hard plastic, and comes in a range of colors and patters (you can get a 3 component body or a 4 component body). Like the original Uni Style Fit, we’ve got a see-through grip to easily identify which components are loaded. Advantage over the original Style Fit: lead advances when a pencil component is deployed by pressing down on the top knock button. Disadvantage: the Prefill has no eraser (also, the Style Fit fixed that problem in another body). That’s right: no eraser; not on top, useless and tiny but still existent, nor as an optional in-body component, like the glorious Hi-Tec-C Coleto line.

Help me I'm still listening to the song. Hold me, Zebra Prefill, whatever lies beyond this morning....

Help me I’m still listening to the song. Hold me, Zebra Prefill, whatever lies beyond this morning….

Biggest thing going for the Zebra Prefill is probably this clip. Cribbed from their Sarasa Push Clip, Airfit Jell, and Surari 4C multi pen, its hinged clips pinch right on my heartstrings. Love a hinged clip.

I SWEAR IT'S MAGENTA PURPLE. NOT PINK. WHY. DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING. WITH THE SARASA PURPLE.

I SWEAR IT’S MAGENTA PURPLE. NOT PINK. WHY. DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING. WITH THE SARASA PURPLE.

A lack of eraser is a serious negative if the Prefill ever hopes to be a strong multipencil, buuuut among the Prefill, Style Fit, and Coleto systems, the Prefill is the only one with three size options (0.3mm, 0.5mm, and 0.7mm) for the mechanical pencil. The Coleto has 0.3mm and 0.5mm, and the Style Fit only has 0.5mm for its pencil component. It all depends on what your priorities might be in building an affordable multipencil.

Fine, I give up. Whatever. It's pink.

Fine, I give up. Whatever. It’s pink now.

If you’re a Zebra fan (think Sarasa gels and Surari super smooth ballpoints), then the Prefill is a good way to bring your loves together in one body, with some caveats. First, there’s only one size option listed for your various gel pen colors (0.4mm) and one size option for your ballpoints (0.5mm)—though the 0.7mm Surari ballpoint refill from my Surari 4C fits in the Prefill, making that 2 ballpoint size options. Second, it seems like individual Sarasa Pens write better than the components in the multi pen. Sometimes a little sacrifice is in order when you want compact convenience. But it’s like there are these times when the gel ball tip feels a little odd while writing…not so consistently nor terrible as to render the pen totally annoyingly unusable, but know that this may come up for you, and you may not like it.

Here's where an eraser would go...IF THE PREFILL HAD ONE.

Here’s where an eraser would go…IF THE PREFILL HAD ONE.

Zebra may be a little late to the low-end game, with not as many gel size options, but the Prefill is a comfortable start. I don’t think it’s enough to unseat the Style Fit or the Coleto, but it should at least pique the interest of Zebra’s Sarasa and Surari fans.

Zebra Prefill Multi Pen System at JetPens





Billet Pen & Marker

21 01 2014
I think you can imagine what writing with a Sharpie looks like. It's big and it bleeds through the paper

I think you can imagine what writing with a Sharpie looks like. It’s big and it bleeds through the paper

I’m sure you all remember this little Kickstarter you helped successfully fund? Thanks to Cliff at Billet Pens, I now have one of the pens and one of the markers to take for a spin. Thanks to Cliff for providing these free samples!

Background image is from a set of three by Chris Simpson titled "Zen Garden" ... the framed set was lying around the house, seemed like it could be a suitable background

Background image is from a set of three by Chris Simpson titled “Zen Garden” … the framed set was lying around the house, seemed like it would be a suitable background, as I don’t have real rocks readily available in my life

The Billet Pen comes in a simple box—nice enough to be functional, especially if you’re gift-giving, but well within the range of something you can dispose of and not feel bad (this is a big problem for me. I have a lot of boxes I don’t want but feel too guilty to get rid of). There’s also a slip with some helpful safety information about these magnets. Do not eat the cap, kids, and especially don’t eat two of them.

more word

Matte Black finish pen, Electric Blue finish marker

These pens are solid, from the appearance to the feel of the aluminum, from the magnets to how snugly everything fits together. There’s no clip, but I go back and forth on the clip issue—on my pens that have them, I wish they didn’t, and the ones that don’t tend to make high-speed rolling escapes off the side of my desk. No way to win on that for me. The pen is a little shorter than the marker—both bodies are the same length, but the marker cap is longer. The caps aren’t interchangeable between the pen and the marker; the pen cap has a special rubber plug and the marker a special inner cap to keep their respective refills from going dry.

dljk

I need to invent more reasons in my life to use Sharpie-type markers

The refills themselves aren’t really the focus—the Hi-Tec-C and the Sharpie marker both are solid writing options. As for the writing experience, both the pen and the marker hold their refills firmly in place. There’s no play, no wiggle, just perfect writing. The grip for the marker is the grip on the Sharpie refill. The pen grip is a two-part aluminum construction: an adapter and a tip. The adapter is perfectly machined to the width of the Hi-Tec-C refill, and if you unscrew the grip at the adapter’s meeting point with the barrel right behind the O-ring that seals the cap, you won’t be able to pull the refill out the back (there’s a flare at the tip of the refill that is wider than the ink part of the refill). You have to unscrew the tip section to get the refill out. I’m thinking the adapter/grip section is thus interchangeable so that, further down the line, other adapter sections can be made suited to other refills that are thicker or thinner than the Hi-Tec-C.

sdf

The whole magnetic world is your pen cap holder. By the way that pen/marker diameter is about 1.5cm, for those who like to keep score of those things

These magnetic caps are pure sciencey forces-of-nature fun. They stay perfectly put while you write. Easy to absentmindedly snap on, easy to take off, but strong enough to stay on in the normal course of use. You can tap it on the page; it won’t knock the cap off (unless you’re particularly violent). Even pushing the cap down on the page, bending it away 90 degrees from the body with just the edges touching, the cap will still snap back onto the body when you lift it (best do this trick slowly though). And though the magnets can’t hold the entire pen to your refrigerator or other suitably magnetic surface, it will hold the cap. Magnets, yo. More fun than should even be allowed.

sdf

Magnetic more like magneato

The aluminum is smooth, and lovely to hold. The pen has weight, but isn’t too heavy. The barrels are thick—about the size of a Prismacolor marker—much thicker than your average pen body. And that’s a good thing! Variety is the lifeblood of the pen world (that said, if you don’t like big barrel pens then these babies are not for you). These pens are well made (in the USA), simple, but undoubtedly satisfying.

Billet Pens and Markers available in several finishes at Billet Pens

 

Note: the giveaway winner tells me he’s had some issues with the tip coming loose on the pen, which I haven’t had any problem with (this is why multiple pen reviewers and multiple pen opinions are important!)…if any of you have or have not had this problem, let me know! And if you do have this problem, see if Loctite helps any? I’m always told I need to put that on anything that might rattle loose on my motorcycle…